We All Have Stories to Tell

February 13, 2014

Lately I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about the funding opportunities for creative artists that I’ve seen posted online. What they almost always describe doesn’t fit my profile at all. Many are limited by gender, ethnicity and/or (most often) age. While I understand the need to give voice to those most often overlooked in the past or just starting out, it got me thinking. After some (all right, a lot of) grumbling, I tried to frame the issue as a positive question: what do I, a male, white composer in his early 60’s, have to offer?

How about a lifetime of experience, with all the joys, frustrations, love, pain and learning that came with it? My art is a product of that life as well as of my upbringing. I grew up in a household where art and its role in society, respect and love for the natural world, and the consciousness of social inequities were all part of our discussions. My pacifism, empathy for the underdog, and efforts to make the world a better place come from this background, as does my need to create. After many years of lamenting that I wasn’t a social activist, I realized that I had been so all along. My music expresses my desire to reach people as directly as possible, to move them emotionally and bring them together. In my music’s calling on listeners’ higher selves, composition is my own small contribution to community and world peace.

Is my experience as an artist unique? Yes and no. Yes, in that I’m the only me around; no, in that we all have stories to tell and that the world can benefit from our experiences, however expressed. Many of us think that our lives don’t hold much interest or value for others, that our stories are “nothing special.” In fact, the sum of our experiences that makes us unique in a curious way can also make us part of the universal human thread. That means there is value to humanity in our tales. What does each of us have to offer? Quite a lot, actually, if we’re willing to do the hard work necessary to communicate from our lives fully and honestly.